Ernest Thompson Seton was a fascinating and enigmatic character with a wide range of interests and talents.
The author of more than 40 books and countless articles in major magazines and lectured extensively, he was a popular lecturer. He was also an artist with particular skill in depicting wildlife, including both birds and mammals, A well-known advocate of Native American rights, he was the founder of the Woodcraft Movement and a founder of the Boy Scouts of America. Seton left a legacy of ideas on a range of topics worthy of our study today.
Seton as a Prolific Author
Seton as Founder of Woodcraft
Seton launched the Woodcraft Movement with a series of articles in the Ladies Home Journal in 1902. Woodcraft was a predecessor of the Scout Movement.
Seton embraced Scouting beginning in 1910, helping organize the Boy Scouts of America and serving as its first Chief Scout. After a clash of egos, Seton left his formal association with the BSA in 1915 and refocused on the Woodcraft League.
To many, however, he remained (and remains) a symbol of the spirit of Scouting.
Seton was a prolific author, writing over 40 books and hundreds of articles in both popular magazines and scientific journals.
One of his books, Wild Animals I Have Known, has been continuously in print since it was first published in 1898.
In addition to his well-known animal stories, his books include books related to Woodcraft (The Birch-Bark Roll), scientific books (Lives of Game Animals), art-related books (Art Anatomy of Animals), and books related to Native Americans (The Gospel of the Red Man).
Seton as Naturalist
Although mostly self-trained, Seton was a well-respected naturalist. He kept meticulous notes, records and sketches of his observations. HIs epic work, the eight volume Lives of Game Animals, is still a frequently quoted reference work. His estimates of the decimated population of the American bison helped launch a remarkably successful reestablishment of the species popularly known as the American buffalo.
The story of "Lobo the King of Currumpaw", first published in Scribner's Magazine in November 1894 and then in 1898 as the first story in the classic Wild Animals I Have Known. In this story, Seton chronicles the events that led to his focus in conservation the rest of his life.
Seton as Artist
Seton received a classical art education in Paris at at the L’Academie Julian, an art school made up of expatriate Canadian artists.
Among his most famous paintings on display are The Triumph of the Wolves at the National Scouting Museum in Cimarron, New Mexico and The Sleeping Wolf at The Seton Gallery at The Academy for the Love of Learning in Santa Fe.
He also illustrated most of his own works and several by other authors, notably Bird Life by the noted ornithologist Frank Chapman.
His works are in the collections of a number of museums in the U.S. and Canada. When Seton original art occasionally come up for auction they are highly sought after
Seton with Grey Whirlwind at Standing Rock, 1927
Trip sponsored by the American Museum of Natural History
Seton as Native American Advocate
Seton was deeply affected by his close relationships with Native Americans from a number of tribes and became a strong advocate of their political and cultural rights.